Immigration Consequences of a Nevada DUI Conviction

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Can I be deported for a Nevada DUI?

For most people, a misdemeanor conviction for DUI in Nevada carries no adverse immigration consequences.

However, in certain situations, conviction on Nevada DUI charges can result in:

  • Deportation, 
  • Denial of admissibility into the United States, or 
  • The inability to become a U.S. citizen or apply for permanent residence (a “green card”).

Such circumstances include (without limitation):

  • The DUI is considered a so-called “crime of moral turpitude”;
  • The conviction includes an offense involving controlled substances; or
  • You have a prior criminal record (including, in some cases, a prior DUI).

To help you better understand how a Nevada DUI can affect your immigration status, our Las Vegas, Nevada DUI defense lawyers discuss the following, below:

  • 1. The difference between a "deportable" and an "inadmissible" crime
  • 2. What is “moral turpitude"?
  • 3. Can I be deported for Nevada DUI of drugs?
  • 4. Can a DUI be domestic violence?
  • 5. DUI with a prior criminal record
  • 6. How an experienced Nevada DUI lawyer can help
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1. The difference between a "deportable" and an "inadmissible" crime

A deportable crime is one for which a U.S. Department of Justice immigration court may order your removal (deportation) if you are not a U.S. citizen.

If you are convicted of a deportable offense, it does not matter how long you have lived in the United States, how well-established your life here is or whether you have a green card. Once you have been deported, your green card (if any) may be revoked. You will be removed from the United States and barred from returning for many years.

A DUI is normally NOT a deportable crime. However, it can become one if:

  • It was a crime of moral turpitude, committed within five years of your admission to the U.S., for which the sentence could have been one year or more;
  • It is your second or subsequent offense involving moral turpitude;
  • The offense relates to a controlled substance;
  • The offense counts as domestic violence; or
  • The conviction also involves an illegal firearm offense.

An “inadmissible offense” is one which makes you ineligible to:

  • Return to the U.S. if you leave it – even if you were originally here legally, or
  • Receive an adjustment to legal immigrant status if you are here unlawfully.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (“I.N.A.”) sets forth the basis for inadmissible crimes. They include:

  • A crime involving moral turpitude or an attempt or conspiracy to commit such a crime;
  • Conviction of two or more crimes with aggregate sentences totaling at least five years;
  • Being a drug or alcohol addict, or
  • A crime involving a controlled substance.[1]

2. What is “moral turpitude”?

The term “crime involving moral turpitude” is not defined in the I.N.A. Courts have held, however, that a crime involving moral turpitude is generally one that:

  • Is vile, base, or depraved, and
  • Violates the accepted moral standards of the United States.

Not all serious crimes meet this standard. To be considered a crime of moral turpitude, a crime must offend the most fundamental moral values of society. Another way of saying this is that it must involve “evil intent.”[2]

In general, in determining whether a crime involves moral turpitude, courts look to the language of the statute defining the offense. They are looking to see whether the law violated requires a finding of intentional or knowing conduct. If a conviction can be based on negligence alone, it does not involve moral turpitude.

Simply driving drunk or stoned does not meet the standard for moral turpitude. You can be convicted of a Nevada DUI based on your driving or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) alone. No finding of intent is necessary.

Nevada courts have not weighed in on whether DUI might ever be considered a crime of moral turpitude. However, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that an Iowa conviction for DUI which injured a minor child in the car was a crime of moral turpitude. This was because Iowa law provides that a person is guilty of child endangerment if he “[k]nowingly acts in a manner that creates a substantial risk to a child or minor's physical, mental, or emotional health or safety.”[3]

Nevada's "child endangerment" law similarly defines the crime as knowingly placing a child in a situation that harms the child's physical or mental well-being.[4] So under such circumstances, a court might well find that DUI that endangers a child is a deportable offense.

The Eighth Circuit has also held that reckless conduct may involve moral turpitude if an aggravating factor is present. If Nevada courts were to agree, such factors might presumably include drag racingevading the police, driving on a revoked license, or anything else that involves intentional or recklessly dangerous behavior.

3. Can I be deported for Nevada DUI of drugs?

If your conviction was simply for Nevada of Drugs (DUID), it is not grounds for deportation or inadmissibility. However, if you were also convicted of a Nevada drug crime, it might be different.

Because federal law is so harsh with respect to the use of drugs, a controlled substances conviction can get you deported. As a result, most skilled Nevada DUI attorneys try to negotiate plea bargains for non-U.S. citizens so that the conviction does not involve a finding or statute that would indicate a violation of Nevada drug laws.

If you are a non-citizen charged with Nevada DUID, we highly recommend that you retain an experienced Nevada DUI lawyer before accepting a plea bargain in a Nevada DUI case.

4. Can a DUI be domestic violence?

Normally, DUI does not constitute a domestic violence offense for purposes of U.S. immigration law. However, given that courts have been willing to order deportation based on DUI with a child in the car (child endangerment), it is not a stretch to imagine that a court might rule similarly if someone under the influence were to force a spouse or domestic partner to be a passenger in a car that the defendant was driving.

5. DUI with a prior criminal record

You are inadmissible to the U.S. if you were convicted of two or more offenses (other than purely political offenses) and the aggregate sentences to confinement for those crimes totaled 5 years or more.[5]

This does not apply to multiple charges arising out of a single course of conduct.

6. How an experienced Nevada DUI lawyer can help

It is much easier to fight a DUI than it is to fight a deportation hearing. Retaining a Nevada DUI lawyer who understands immigration law can greatly increase the likelihood of your remaining in the country and being able to leave and re-enter.

A good Nevada DUI attorney can assess your legal status and work with the prosecutor to ensure that nothing on your record will have a negative impact on your immigration record.

Arrested for DUI in Las Vegas or Reno? Call us for help…

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If you have been charged with DUI and are concerned about how it will affect your immigration status, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

Our caring Nevada DUI lawyers understand U.S. immigration law and all the ways that a criminal conviction can affect your right to remain in the country.

To schedule your free consultation, call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) or fill out the form on this page.

To learn how a California DUI can lead to deporation, please see our article, Immigration Consequences of a California DUI Conviction.

Legal references:

  1. 8 U.S. Code 1182 (a)(2)(A)(i)(I).
  2. See, e.g., Hernandez-Gonzalez v. Holder (Ninth Circuit 2015) 778 F.3d 793.
  3. Hernandez-Perez v. Holder, No. 08-2644 - U.S. Eighth Circuit; Iowa Code 726.6.
  4. NRS 200.508.
  5. 8 U.S. Code 1182 (a)(2)(B).

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